Rhetoric & Composition I Rotating Header Image

Faith & Fashion: “A shared hypothesis …”?

“But the focus is on a shared hypothesis about what we call the Catholic imagination and the way it has engaged artists and designers and shaped their approach to creativity, as opposed to any kind of theology or sociology. Beauty has often been a bridge between believers and unbelievers.”

That’s an interesting interpretive and analytic lens, isn’t it?

And Adam & Eve make a serendipitous appearance (click image to see a larger version):

NYT: The Costume Institute Takes On Catholicism

November 15, 2017

Toward perfection

St. Martin’s Handbook:

“our mad attempt to interpret”

November 13, 2017

You don’t see this word every day

NYT/Review: On Violence and the Pain of Others in ‘Three Billboards’

November 12, 2017

Critical Thinking

November 10, 2017

Thursday 11/9 class notes

Some notes from today:

There are some conventions in digital writing that are different than in writing for print:

  • We use serif fonts for body text — Georgia, say — and sans serif for subject headings
  • We don’t indent the first sentence in new paragraphs
  • But we do provide white space between paragraphs
  • Lines of text contain 11-13 words for readability
  • We use blue and underlined links, because that’s what the internet was invented for (we can talk about the blue/underlined part next Tuesday) 

Portfolio checklist:

  • Reflective Essay Theorizing Myself as a Writer
  • Summary/Précis page: one summary and five Rhetorical Précis
  • Rhetorical Analysis page: three drafts; annotated article photo; peer review — both given & received 
  • Op-Ed/Persuasive Essay page: three drafts; PIE paragraphs; phenomenological audio peer review;  Letter to the Editor
  • Remix Project: worksheet + “draft” + final remix materials + manual (optional) + SoGC

Here’s Bruni’s essay on Joan Didion: “The Magic and Moral of Joan Didion”

Here’s Didion’s 1961 essay in Vogue on “Self-Respect: Its Source, Its Power”


Multiple modes, materials, rhetorical purposes, and literacies — not unlike our remixes

Shipka, Jody. “Including, but Not Limited to, the Digital: Composing Multimodal Texts.” Multimodal Literacies and Emerging Genres. Ed. Tracey Bowen and Carl Whithaus. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013. 73-89. Print.

You get a book, and you get a book … everybody gets a book … (Autumn 2015 course site)


November 9, 2017

Tomaselli Remix

Emily Gosling/CreativeBoom: “Fred Tomaselli’s beguiling artworks on New York Times covers highlight the world’s global calamities and political nightmares”

More here

November 5, 2017

Congratulations, Ms. Blankenbaker!

The online version is illustrated: 


November 1, 2017

Class visitors

I invited John Minster from the DePaul College Republicans for a brief visit to class today so that he can tell you about that organization, allied student organizations, and an upcoming speaker.

I mention this now for two reasons:

When we have a visitor giving a presentation, it’s good professional practice to put our phones and laptops away in order to engage the speaker, out of respect, so please represent and make us look good.

When we have a visitor giving a presentation, it’s good professional practice to have questions ready — it’s conventional for speakers to conclude by asking “do you have any questions?” — and it’s our professional obligation not to let there be just dead air in response. Has that ever happened to you in a presentation? It’s the worst! Consider it a collegial and professional obligation. 

Let me know if you’d like to hear from other DePaul student organization representatives — what they do, why they do it, how you can participate:

Or others? There are women’s and men’s Frisbee teams. And dancing

Wow, Facebook sure has that student-organization segment of the market covered. 

Update: Mr. Minster in class this morning:


October 31, 2017

Words seem to matter

NYT Letter to the EditorDon’t Call It ‘Nonconsensual Sex’
Also cf. our previous discussions on “words matter”

October 30, 2017

Kristof: “Hey Men, Listen Up”

What do you think, WRD 103 men — give this one a go on Tuesday morning?

Kristof, “Hey Men, Listen Up”

October 29, 2017


October 25, 2017

Woke and Typography and Print vs. Digital — all in one post

Girls, Don’t Become Girl Scouts


October 22, 2017

“Writing on the Wall”: newspapers, art & remix

The newspaper is itself an outlandish creation: a smudgy, portable, disposable offline data platform made of tree pulp, mass-produced every day on huge printers and trucked for a fee to your home, or sold from the sidewalk. Newspapers are not the societal bulwark they once were; their authority is challenged and ubiquity is slipping. But artists who use and love newspapers do so for good reason.

“They are fountains of words, meaning, preliminary history. They are ready-made targets for irony, allusion and commentary, ripe for riffing and manipulation. They are beautiful in themselves, bursting with aesthetic riches — photographic and commercial art, comics, op-ed illustrations. They are also abundant, cheap and rectangular. And you can dip them in strips into flour and water and make beautiful things.

“Their place in art, as art, is honored and unshakable, which is reason enough to curse the glowing screens that are relentlessly shoving them aside. 

— Downes, The Writing on the Wall

“Shock of the News”

“Newspapers are still with us, but the public role of at least the printed version is greatly diminished. We have effectively left the era of the printed page in which newspapers covered the land like rain. Yet, as the world becomes increasingly virtual and digital, newspapers take on an expanded role in our imaginations.” 

“This exhibition will focus on currently working artists whose engagement with the material and content of newspapers gives us a window on its changing status. All of the artists grew up with newspapers as quotidian objects. They are perhaps the last generation to do so.”

— From the exhibit Burying the Lede


October 21, 2017

“Final Edition: Twilight of the American Newspaper”

In this morning’s paper there is a quote from an interview San Francisco’s mayor, Gavin Newsom, gave to The Economist concerning the likelihood that San Francisco will soon be a city without a newspaper: “People under thirty won’t even notice.”


Something funny I have noticed, perhaps you have noticed it, too. You know what futurists and online-ists and cut-out-the-middle-man-ists and Davos-ists and deconstructionists of every stripe want for themselves? They want exactly what they tell you you no longer need, you pathetic, overweight, disembodied Kindle reader.


We already live in the America of USA Today, which appears, unsolicited, in a plastic chrysalis suspended from your doorknob at a Nebraska Holiday Inn or a Maine Marriott. We check the airport weather. We fly from one CNN Headline News monitor to another. We end up where we started. An obituary does not propose a solution.


In the growling gray light (San Francisco still has foghorns), I collect the San Francisco Chronicle from the wet steps. I am so lonely I must subscribe to three papers—the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle. I remark their thinness as I climb the stairs. The three together equal what I remember.

— Richard Rodriguez, “Final Edition: Twilight of the American Newspaper.” Harper’s, November 2009.

October 20, 2017

Letters to the Editor

“Most letters were far more serious. Jackie Robinson, the first black baseball player in the major leagues, wrote in 1967 to denounce our ‘complete lack of understanding of the desires and the ambitions of Negro Americans.'”


  • Last names A-L: submit by Thursday 10/26
  • Last names M-Z: submit by Tuesday, 11/7

October 19, 2017

The view from here

@ window

“According to the Oxford English Dictionary …”

October 18, 2017

No-phone journals (2016)

‘We no longer search for news, the news finds us.’

No matter where the students were from, the amount of information coming to them via their mobile phones or the Internet – via text message, on Facebook, Twitter, chat, Skype IM, QQ, email, etc. – is overwhelming; students are inundated 24/7. As a result, most students reported that they rarely go prospecting for “hard” news at mainstream or legacy news sites. Instead they inhale, almost unconsciously, the news that is served up on the sidebar of their email account, that is on friends’ Facebook walls, that comes through on Twitter. (The World Unplugged)

Internet use is a near ‘constant’ for some teens

Teens ages 13 to 17 are also going online frequently. Aided by the convenience and constant access provided by mobile phones, 92% of teens report going online daily — with 24% using the internet “almost constantly,” 56% going online several times a day, and 12% reporting once-a-day use. Just 6% of teens report going online weekly, and 2% go online less often. (Pew: Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015)

Students do most of their socializing online (Pew: Teens, Technology and Friendships)

Andrea Lunsford isn’t so sure. Lunsford is a professor of writing and rhetoric at Stanford University, where she has organized a mammoth project called the Stanford Study of Writing to scrutinize college students’ prose. From 2001 to 2006, she collected 14,672 student writing samples—everything from in-class assignments, formal essays, and journal entries to emails, blog posts, and chat sessions. Her conclusions are stirring.

“I think we’re in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven’t seen since Greek civilization,” she says. For Lunsford, technology isn’t killing our ability to write. It’s reviving it—and pushing our literacy in bold new directions.

Clive Thompson on the New Literacy 

  • Students write more than previous generations
  • Students are more aware of the purpose for writing and the audience
  • The writing composed in social media has a performative role; writing is an enactment

No-Phone Journals: 2016 Class

Inspired in part by our class discussion of Sherry Turkle’s “Stop Googling. Let’s Talk” and in part by our own open-minded curiosity, 13 students in WRD103 volunteered to surrender their phones for four days — Tuesday, 10/13 to Friday, 10/16 — and to keep a phenomenological journal during that time. 

Read some un-edited journal entries, below. The next step is to think together about how to turn these experiences, questions, and observations into Op-Ed essays, or other reflective projects: 

Katy: “I actually had to use an alarm clock and watch”

Alex: “first instinct: tweet about it, and I did via twitter.com instead of the app (since I hadn’t had my phone taken for more than 5 minutes before I did this)”

Sam: “Insight: I actually have a skewed version of time and less patience. I have to wait for someone to email me back. I HAVE TO WAIT. WITH NOTHING TO DO… no Snapchat, Instagram, nothing.”

Charlie: “Notable differences I’ve noticed are that I miss my music. I can’t say I miss anything else.”

Cristina: “I asked my roommate several times to borrow her phone and I am pretty sure she got very annoyed.”

Gabi: “I keep feeling like I was missing something …”

Paulina: “I was talking to them, but they were doing something on their phones. “

Anela: “Right before I had to give my phone in I got really shaky and nervous.”

Dzejna: “As I was writing my name on the pink post-it and wrapping the rubber band around my phone, I felt a sense of anxiety and excitement in my stomach.”

Tania: “The first day sucked the most out of all 3 days.”

October 17, 2017

Paragraph development: the workhorse of your essay

[P] Every wolf in Yellowstone therefore is more than just a wolf. Imbued with profound symbolic meaning, each wolf embodies the divergent goals of competing social movements involved in the reintroduction debate. Framed by environmentalists and their wise use opponents as another line in the sand in their ongoing battle for the heart and soul of the West, wolf reintroduction is a high-stakes political conflict. [I] Wolf recovery is often portrayed by environmentalists as being symptomatic of a culture in transition–an inevitable change (Askins, 1995). It is an image that plays especially well with the media: “[T]he wolf issue pits the New West against the Old West” (Johnson, 1994, p. 12), a milestone in the “transformation of power” from the Old West (Brandon, 1995, p.8). [E] Wolf restoration clearly represents change, but sound bites that reduce the social struggle over wolves to an “inevitable” transition from the old to the new are inadequate. They do not explain the underlying social issues driving the transformation. They do not capture the essence of social negotiation, the give-and-take of political exchange between social movements struggling to define the western landscape. Nor do they acknowledge that these social issues will remain after the wolf controversy has exited the center stage of public policy discourse.

Wilson, Matthew. “The Wolf in Yellowstone: Science, Symbol, or Politics? Deconstructing the Conflict between Environmentalism and Wise Use.” Society & Natural Resources. 10(1997): 453-468.


October 16, 2017

“If I Were President …” & Empathy

“We asked students what they would do if they were in charge, what their concerns and hopes for the future would be. Empathy and forgiveness — a plea for more — and climate change were recurring themes, as well as issues political and personal.” 

NYT: If I Were President . . . of My Club, My Class, My College, My Country

For those of you writing on empathy-related issues:


October 13, 2017

Close Reading

Mark Tansey, Close Reading

October 10, 2017

Words matter

From class: “but all words are made up anyway…

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world” — or, “The limits of my language stand for the limits of my world” — or, “The limits of my language are the limits of my mind. All I know is what I have words for.”

— Ludwig Wittgenstein,  Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922)

October 7, 2017

Key terms: Hispanic, Latino, Latina, LatinX …

Pretty interesting timing, given our Thursday discussion: 

Are they using these terms interchangeably and synonymously? Should they?:

Page One documentary: background notes

Pentagon Papers: highly classified and top-secret papers collected and distributed by Daniel Ellsberg to expose the government’s misleading American citizens about the Vietnam War (1971)

Wikileaks: publishes anonymously sourced and classified materials — the Pentagon Papers of the 21st-century, so to speak, except that it’s on the internet and relentless. The Pentagon Papers happened only once, whereas Wikileaks happens every day.

David Carr, NYT Media Writer

Brian Stelter, Media Writer now works at CNN

Tim Arango, NYT Reporter: now a Los Angeles correspondent for The Times after seven years in Iraq

“Besides, better facts tend to be counterproductive …”

“Besides, better facts tend to be counterproductive on hot-button issues like gun control. As Tali Sharot notes in her book “The Influential Mind,” when you present people with evidence that goes against their deeply held beliefs, the evidence doesn’t sway them. Instead, they invent more reasons their prior position was actually correct. The smarter a person is, the greater his or her ability to rationalize and reinterpret discordant information, and the greater the polarizing boomerang effect is likely to be.”

— NYT: David Brooks: “Guns and the Soul of America” 

“‘No Way to Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”

“The satirical website The Onion published a headline on Monday that echoed the thoughts of many Americans who were, once again, processing a horrific mass shooting.

“‘No Way to Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”

“The headline was not new. It was the fifth time The Onion had published it.”

NYT, The Onion’s Las Vegas Shooting Headline Is Painfully Familiar


October 5, 2017

“What am I trying to say? “

“What am I trying to say? What is this poem, essay, chapter about? What details belong in the piece and what’s extraneous? These are among the questions all writers ask ourselves as we stare at the blinking cursors on our computer screens. When it comes to how relevant my cerebral palsy is to a given piece, the question can seem even more complex.”

“Would I have to be disabled on every page?” 

NYT/Ona Gritz, “Finding Myself on the Page” — October 4, 2017

Rebecca West

October 4, 2017

Argument, Persuasion, or Propaganda?

October 2, 2017

“Framing is power …”


““Ways of Seeing,” the art critic John Berger’s 1972 series on visual culture for the BBC, made the case that how we are directed to look at something determines what we see. Framing is important, he suggests, because framing is power: It determines what matters and what doesn’t, what should be paid attention to and what shouldn’t.

— NYT Magazine, 10/1/2017: What I Care About Is Important. What You Care About Is a ‘Distraction.’


“Far more significant than the conflict between the capital and the people is the ideological clash between left and right. Cruz’s rhetoric is mostly an exercise, in the manner of Sun Tzu, of framing the narrative in the most advantageous way.” 

— New Yorker, “The Absolutist: Ted Cruz is an unyielding debater—and the far right’s most formidable advocate.”

“What the Cubs Could Teach the President”

Cohen, “What the Cubs Could Teach the President”

October 1, 2017

“… the bars of its cage”

September 29, 2017

NYT: Garden Track Meet Will Drop U.S. Anthem to Avoid Incidents” (1973)

— NYT: Garden Track Meet Will Drop U.S. Anthem to Avoid Incidents (January 16, 1973)

The details and context are very interesting, and the writer delivers a mini-history:

“Amid growing controversy over whether it should be played at sports events, the national anthem has been dropped from the Olympic Invitational track and field meet at Madison Square Garden.

The playing of “The StarSpangled Banner” is not obligatory, since “its purpose and relevance to sports events has never been established,” Jesse Abratson, the meet director, said yesterday.”


“Three members of the mile relay team, all blacks, went through stretching exercises during the traditional playing. Some fans hooted and cursed and, after a delay, Jim Foley, the meet referee, summoned the games committee to the floor and a decision was made to disqualify the team.”


Sure, the black factor crossed our minds. One doesn’t relish incidents that disrupt an event. It entered into our decision, but it wasn’t the key factor.”


Since the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, when Tommie Smith and John Carlos, sprinters, stood on the winners’ podium and raised their fists in the Black Power salute, the playing of the anthem has stirred controversy.”


“However, in Montreal, “The Star‐Spangled Banner” no longer is played before hockey games involving United States teams.

“There is a lot of sentiment against the Vietnamese war in our country,” a Montreal Canadiens’ official explained, “and we have a lot of Americans who came here to escape the draft. We don’t want any incidents.”


Baron-Cohen: example of a claim

Here’s page 1 of Baron-Cohen’s book, The Essential Difference: Male And Female Brains And The Truth About Autism

Note how explicit he is with his claim, which he calls a theory. For our purposes, we can think of it as a rhetorical claim. Note also how he establishes a direct and respectful relationship with his readers, not all of whom are inclined to agree with his claim. 

From Baron-Cohen’s New York Times Op-Ed essay, “The Male Condition”:

“In my work I have summarized these differences by saying that males on average have a stronger drive to systemize, and females to empathize. Systemizing involves identifying the laws that govern how a system works. Once you know the laws, you can control the system or predict its behavior. Empathizing, on the other hand, involves recognizing what another person may be feeling or thinking, and responding to those feelings with an appropriate emotion of one’s own.”

September 27, 2017

Mexico City, 1968

“Mexico City, Oct. 18–The United States Olympic Committee suspended Tommie Smith and John Carlos today for having used last Wednesday’s victory ceremony for the 200- meter dash at the Olympic Games as the vehicle for a black power demonstration.”

“The two Negro sprinters were told by Douglas F. Roby, the president of the committee, that they must leave the Olympic Village. Their credentials also were taken away, which made it mandatory for them to leave Mexico within 48 hours.”

“2 Black Power Advocates Ousted From Olympics”
Page A1, but the photo did not accompany the article: 

“Then, late in the Games, Smith and Carlos came up with their almost impromptu plan for the silent scream of those raised fists. The American news media were brutal. At home, most blacks smiled; most whites smoldered. Shortly after the protest, Smith told the ABC commentator Howard Cosell: “The right glove that I wore on my right hand signified the power within black America. The left glove my teammate John Carlos wore on his left hand made an arc with my right hand and his left hand, also to signify black unity. The scarf that was worn around my neck signified blackness. John Carlos and me wore socks, black socks, without shoes, to also signify our poverty.”

“The two medalists were soon kicked off the team, and as Hoffer reveals, that was only a prelude to death threats and more. “Nothing either would say was ­really registering,” Hoffer writes. “They had, in almost total spontaneity, created a scene of discontent that was so powerful that words would always fail it.” Again and again, they “tried to explain their symbols of protest, their furious pose, but the words piled up uselessly against the image they’d created.” For years to come, both Carlos and Smith would pay mightily for their galvanizing gesture. It derailed their athletic careers and apparently helped to end their marriages.”

NYT Sunday Book Review: Marino, 2009, “One Moment in Time”


September 25, 2017

How’s this for serendipity?

Sunday Review page 1, above the fold, no less.
There are no coincidences, only serendipity. 

Kristof, How to Win a War on Drugs

September 24, 2017

Print & Digital: Socioeconomic Context

This is the kind of tantalizing data I mentioned the other day in a search for some kind of connection, link, or correlation between socioeconomic status and choice of reading platforms: print or digital.

This example was especially compelling, because it appears in an article about something else: “As College Deadlines Near, Families Wonder What They Can Pay” — Lieber, Business, April 28, 2017. 

The data is most likely the result of internal Times research and therefore proprietary and unavailable to us. 

But still!

Griswold, Wendy, et al.”Reading and the Reading Class in the Twenty-First Century.” Annual Review of Sociology. 31 (2005): 127-141. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.soc.31.041304.122312


Sociological research on reading, which formerly focused on literacy, now conceptualizes reading as a social practice. This review examines the current state of knowledge on (a) who reads, i.e., the demographic characteristics of readers; (b) how they read, i.e., reading as a form of social practice; (c) how reading relates to electronic media, especially television and the Internet; and (d) the future of reading. We conclude that a reading class is emerging, restricted in size but disproportionate in influence, and that the Internet is facilitating this development.

September 23, 2017

Benefits and value of the Rhetorical Précis Method of Summary?

Here’s what we brainstormed in class Thursday — if I missed any or if you have suggested revisions, please let me know:

  • developing more rigorous analytic skills
  • makes a good longer-paper outline: what, how, why, for whom?
  • forces us to be more clear and precise 
  • fundamental to critical thinking — you really have to get some critical distance
  • forces us to slow down and really think about what we are reading: not just the what of the essay, but the how

Thanks for doing this!

September 22, 2017

‘Useful abbreviations for the time-pressed online reader’

“Aaron Hernandez Had Severe C.T.E. When He Died at Age 27”

A followup:

Last night, about 8:00 p.m.: “Aaron Hernandez Had Severe C.T.E. When He Died at Age 27” posted online, under Sports. 

This morning, in print, page A1, below the fold, with brain images: 

Page A1 PDF (headline in print, he’s referred to as, “Patriots Star Jailed for Murder …”; his name isn’t mentioned until the second paragraph —  online, it’s “Aaron Hernandez” in the headline)
Page A14 PDF 

This will be an interesting example to use as we watch the film Page One, and see how article placement and priorities are established. Also a good example of science writing and identifying instances of persuasion.

They are in the mail, Ms. Ono.


Click here for page PDF.


Project Facebook page.

September 15, 2017

On Loneliness

Across the country, college freshmen are settling into their new lives and grappling with something that doesn’t compete with protests and political correctness for the media’s attention, something that no one prepared them for, something that has nothing to do with being “snowflakes” and everything to do with being human.

They’re lonely.

In a sea of people, they find themselves adrift. The technology that keeps them connected to parents and high school friends only reminds them of their physical separation from just about everyone they know best. That estrangement can be a gateway to binge drinking and other self-destructive behavior. And it’s as likely to derail their ambitions as almost anything else.

Frank Bruni, “The Real Campus Scourge” September 2nd, 2017

Letters to the Editor in response to Bruni: “Loneliness and the College Experience” — September 9th, 2017 — note letter writers’ tone, affiliations, proximity to the issue, and perspectives.

September 10, 2017

Welcome to WRD103: Rhetoric & Composition I

Autumn Quarter, 2017

Great minds discuss ideas.
Average minds discuss events.
Small minds discuss people.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald

WRD 103 introduces you to the forms, methods, expectations, and conventions of college-level academic writing. We also explore and discuss how writing and rhetoric create a contingent relationship between writers, readers, and issues, and how this relationship affects the drafting, revising, and editing of our written — and increasingly digital and multimodal — projects.

In WRD 103, we will:

  • Gain experience reading and writing in multiple genres in multiple modes
  • Practice writing in different rhetorical circumstances, marshaling sufficient, plausible sup­port for your arguments and advocacy positions
  • Practice shaping the language of written and multimodal discourses to your audiences and purposes, fostering clarity and emphasis by providing ex­pli­cit and appropriate cues to the main purpose of your texts
  • Practice reading and evaluating the writing of others in order to iden­tify the rhetorical strategies at work in written and in multimodal texts.

You’ll be happy to note, I hope, that we build on your previous knowledge and experiences; that is, we don’t assume that you show up here a blank slate. We assume that you have encountered interesting people, have engaging ideas, and have something to say. A good writing course should prepare you to take those productive ideas into other courses and out into the world, where they belong, and where you can defend them and advocate for them.

Finally, it’s no secret around here that students who take early and regular advantage of DePaul’s Center for Writing-based Learning not only do better in their classes, but also benefit from the interactions with the tutors and staff in the Center.


November 21, 2015

Critical Thinking Contexts for our Class and for College

Unclear writing, now as always, stems from unclear thinking–both of which ultimately have political and economic implications.

A well cultivated critical thinker practices:

  • Rationality: relying on reason rather than emotion; requiring support; ignoring claims without support; following claims and support where it leads; being more concerned about finding the best explanation than about being right; analyzing apparent confusion; and asking questions.
  • Metacognitive self-awareness: weighing the influences of your own motives, biases, assumptions, prejudices, and ideologies. For example, about which of your assumptions are you most skeptical?
  • Open-mindedness: evaluating all reasonable inferences; considering a variety of possible viewpoints or perspectives; remaining open to alternative interpretations; accepting new explanations because they explain the evidence better, are simpler, or have fewer inconsistencies; accepting new priorities in response to re-evaluation of the evidence; and not rejecting unpopular views out of hand.
  • Judgement: recognizing the relevance and merit of alternative assumptions and perspectives and recognizing the with of evidence and support
  • Discipline: precise, meticulous, comprehensive, and exhaustive; resisting manipulation and irrational appeals; avoiding snap judgments.
  • Raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely;
  • Gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it, effectively comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
  • Thinks open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, ideologies, implications, and practical consequences; and
  • Communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.

Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism. – Adapted from Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, 2008.

“A persistent effort to examine any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the evidence that supports it and the further conclusions to which it tends.” Edward M. Glaser. An Experiment in the Development of Critical Thinking. 1941.

Chaffee’s Definition of Critical Thinking

Critical thinkers are people who have developed thoughtful and well-founded beliefs that guide their choices in every area of their lives. In order to develop the strongest and most accurate beliefs possible, you need to become aware of your own biases, explore situations from many different perspectives, and develop sound reasons to support your points of view. These abilities are the tools you need to become more enlightened and reflective “critical thinker” (p. 28).

For Chaffee, critical thinking involves the following:

  • Carefully analyzing and evaluating your beliefs in order to develop the most accurate beliefs possible.
  • Viewing situations from different perspectives to develop an in-depth understanding.
  • Supporting viewpoints with reasons and evidence to arrive at thoughtful, well-substantiate conclusions.
  • Thinking critically about our personal “lenses,” which shape and influence the way we perceive the world.
  • Synthesizing information into informed conclusions that we are willing to modify based on new insight. (p. 35)

[From The Thinker’s Way by John Chaffee, Boston: Little, Brown, 1998]

Habits of Mind

Habits of mind refers to ways of approaching learning that are both intellectual and practical and that will support your success in a variety of fields and disciplines. The framework identifies eight habits of mind essential for success in college writing

  • Curiosity: the desire to know more about the world. In our class, that might mean challenging yourself and stretching yourself intellectually to think beyond the obvious and inquire into issues and contexts to which you might be blind.
  • Openness: the willingness to consider new ways of being and thinking in the world, rather than merely clinging to what you already believe to be true or not true; in our class, that includes critical thinking.
  • Engagement: a sense of investment and involvement in learning; in our class, that includes focused reading of the New York Times and your contributions to the intellectual life of our class.
  • Creativity: the ability to use novel approaches for generating, investigating, and representing ideas; in our class, that includes brainstorming, problem-solving, and critical thinking.
  • Persistence: the ability to sustain interest in and attention to short- and long-term projects; developing mental discipline and rising up to challenges, rather than backing away from them.
  • Responsibility: the ability to take ownership of one’s actions and understand the consequences of those actions for oneself and others; in our class, that includes practicing good time management, and identifying and using resources available to you — office hours, the Writing Center, each other.
  • Flexibility: the ability to adapt to situations, expectations, or demands.
  • Metacognition: the ability to reflect on one’s own thinking as well as on the individual and cultural processes used to structure knowledge: thinking about thinking and writing about writing.